Thursday, April 20, 2006

VIRGINIA NEWS: Mystery Ailment Strikes Deer in Northern Virginia

A MYSTERIOUS AILMENT has been afflicting deer in Loudoun and Fauquier counties and state wildlife officials are grappling for answers.

Most of the deer brought to Dr. Jonathan Sleeman for necropsy were killed because they exhibited signs of severe illness, including diarrhea and emaciation. With concerns running high over preventing Chronic Wasting Disease from entering Virginia, the sick deer rapidly became a priority, according to Jerry Sims, regional biologist for the DGIF.

Chronic Wasting Disease has not been detected in any of the deer tested, according to Sleeman, a wildlife veterinarian for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

The problem was first discovered a couple of months ago and both fawns and adult deer have exhibited sickness, with nearly 10 examined in detail post-mortem.

"At one point, there was a thought that this may be related to an element deficiency, such as selenium, but that isn't bearing out," Sims said.

Added Sleeman: "I am seeing emaciation with chronic enteritis [inflammation of the gut]. Some cases also have pneumonia. We have not determined the exact cause, but I am suspicious that it is caused by an infectious agent such as a parasite or bacteria.

"However, we have established that these deer appear to be on marginal nutrition, and high deer densities may be a factor," he said, also explaining that people feeding deer may also be contributing to this problem by concentrating deer in the same area.

Sleeman said the illness appears localized to western Loudoun County and northern Fauquier County and doesn't seem to be a threat to the region's entire deer herd. Sleeman also explained this doesn't appear related to any deer farming activities since there aren't any captive facilities nearby.

Sims wonders if these may be deer that normally would have died during a rougher winter, but made it through this recent mild winter.

"We don't want to give the perception that deer are sick or dying in significant numbers," he said. "But, we are finding scattered deer with this condition in areas with dense deer herds. These may be the poster children for over-populated deer herds."

Sleeman said the department will continue to investigate additional cases and is awaiting results of diagnostic tests. Officials are also planning to meet to discuss management options relative to the situation.

While there is no evidence that this disease is transmissible to humans, Sleeman advises anyone seeing a sick deer not to disturb nor kill the animal. Quickly report it to the nearest DGIF office and someone will investigate the report, he said.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Deer regulations approved

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - No comeback for Pennsylvania’s deer next year.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Game Commission was expected to be a showdown between hunters seeing too few deer and others who want to see more native plants, new trees in forests and less farmers’ crops devoured.

Despite increasing howls of protests from many hunters, the Game Commission voted in Harrisburg to carry on with its commitment to a downsized deer herd for a more balanced ecosystem.

While many had expected a tumultuous, closely divided series of votes, the eight commissioners were fairly united in key decisions on the agency’s controversial scientific-based deer-management plan.

The number of antlerless deer licenses that will be available to hunters for 2006-07 was reduced only slightly, from 879,000 to 859,000

OHIO NEWS: No bowhunting in Oakwood, Ohio

Ed. smartass remark: I'm sure this issue will resolve itself.

By Bill Duffield, Editor, Kettering-Oakwood Times

There will be no deer hunting in the city of Oakwood.

Oakwood's city council voted down an ordinance that would have allowed licensed bow hunters to hunt the city's growing whitetail deer population.

That ordinance went down by a 4-1 vote during the April 10 council meeting.

The ordinance was originally brought to council in December of 2005 for its first reading. But subsequent complaints from citizens made council decide to table it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Controversial 2006 season to be set today

By P.j. Reilly, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Intelligencer Journal

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Game Commission's board of commissioners got an earful Monday. And the main topic of discussion was deer.

The commissioners heard from several foresters and farmers who urged them to "stay the course" with the agency's deer management program. Deer populations are finally starting to decline in parts of the state, making it easier to grow crops and trees, the farmers and foresters said. "We want to be able to grow a forest without having to build fences to keep the deer out," said McKean County forester Blaine Fuller. "We're just beginning to be able to do that."

The commissioners also heard from several hunters and two state lawmakers who recommended drastic changes to the agency's deer management program, which they blamed for cutting deer numbers too much over the past several years. "Some people think we want to see a deer behind every tree," said Greg Levengood, president of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania. "All we want is a reasonable chance of seeing a deer when we go out hunting."

Today, the commissioners will vote to establish the hunting seasons and bag limits for the 2006-07 hunting year. They also will vote to set the antlerless deer license allocations for the year.

Chris Rosenberry, director of the Game Commission's deer management team, said the antlerless allocations and seasons recommended by his team are designed to "stabilize" deer populations across the state. "Our goal is to manage for healthy deer and a healthy forest," Rosenberry said.

That's exactly what should drive the agency's management program, said Jim Grace, director of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, which manages state forests across Pennsylvania. "In many areas of the state where hunters are saying they're not seeing many deer, it's because the habitat can't support any deer there," Grace said.

Monday, April 17, 2006

WISCONSIN OPINION: Keep the politics out of conservation science

By Ed Culhane
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

This column is an open letter to 10 members of the Wisconsin Legislature, those who serve on the the Joint Committee for the Review of Rules and Regulations:

Dear Sir or Madam:
On Tuesday, you will hear testimony and be called upon to make a decision, I believe, will have a profound impact on the future of hunting, fishing and trapping in Wisconsin.

I am writing — and please consider this my personal testimony — to ask that you restore common sense and wisdom to the process of setting deer hunting seasons.

Of even greater importance, perhaps, is the approach legislators take in making decisions that affect all of us. I am begging you to set an example. Please show us your vote doesn't belong to a single interest group, no matter how politically powerful. Please don't let this be about Democrats vs. Republicans.

We, have been fortunate in Wisconsin, especially those of us who, like Aldo Leopold, cannot live without wild things. Among Leopold's legacies is an enlightened system for establishing natural resources policy, a system that relies heavily on strong public involvement and on science-based resource management.

Programs for restoring fish populations, reintroducing extirpated species like elk or restoring habitat can take 10 or 20 years to prove themselves and don't lend themselves to the two-year cycle of election politics or to 180-degree turnarounds based on sudden bursts of public emotion.

That's why great Wisconsin leaders, including Leopold, advocated the creation of the Wisconsin Conservation Commission in 1928, now known as the Natural Resources Board. The board's citizen members, each appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, serve long, staggered terms.

The board works with the state's biologists and other resource professionals to effectively manage and preserve fish and game populations and their habitats.

The board also works with hunting, fishing and conservation clubs across the state and with the Conservation Congress, which was specifically created as a means for hunters and fishermen to advise the board on policy.

It's not a perfect system, but it's the best damn system ever created.
It's the reason Wisconsin has some of the best deer hunting in the world.
It's the reason we can hunt wild turkeys in the spring and fall.
It's the reason Trout Unlimited, after a two-year study, named Wisconsin's trout management program the best in the nation.

It's the reason muskie fishing keeps getting better.
It's the reason we in Wisconsin are the proud stewards of the largest self-sustaining population of lake sturgeon in the world.

The system provides for checks and balances. The natural resource committees in the house and senate have oversight authority. These committees can object to a rule and negotiate changes.

But when the two committees, meeting jointly, objected to the 2006 deer season framework based on a power play by the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs and refused a reasonable compromise, they did a disservice to all Wisconsin hunters.

The snowmobile organization argued — without evidence or logic — that four-day Zone T gun hunts during the second week of December would interfere with snowmobiling north of U.S. 8.

This argument would be laughable if it wasn't being used to take our rights away. First of all, there's no evidence hunting interferes with snowmobiling. Beyond that, only twice during the past 15 years, has there been enough snow on the ground that week to open snowmobile trails.

The board offered to limit the Zone T hunts to a bit more than half of the management units north of 8, but there was no appeasing the powerful snowmobile lobby.

So the committees suggested moving the late Zone T hunt to the week immediately following the traditional gun deer season. Not only would this not work in terms of deer herd reduction, but it would interfere with the muzzleloader season and make rule enforcement by wardens an impossible nightmare.

Wisely, the Natural Resources Board rejected this.
So now it's up to you. As members of the joint committee, you have the ability to end this nonsense. You can overturn the objection and allow the rule to stand.

You'd be voting in favor of science over innuendo. You'd be telling the state's hunters and anglers their rights are not for sale, not even for the votes the powerful snowmobile lobby can deliver.

I'm told such a vote would be unusual. But if it were to happen, it would be like opening the windows on a gorgeous April day and letting a fresh, cool breeze blow away weeks worth of stuffy, hot air.

Ed Culhane writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton.

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Zeroing in on measures of a healthy deer herd


Some hunters and others have wondered: How will the Pennsylvania Game Commission know if and when its deer management program is working? They now have their answer ... at least in part.

The commission has announced some of the measures it's going to use to analyze things like deer and forest habitat health.

Analyzing deer health will involve using reproductive data -- embryos per doe and fawn pregnancy rates -- from each wildlife management unit to evaluate trends in deer health.

"Reproduction was chosen as a primary measure for deer health because research has repeatedly shown there are differences in the reproductive rates of females in good physical condition and those in poor physical condition," said Chris Rosenberry, supervisor of the Game Commission's deer management section.

"Research also has confirmed that as a deer population's size increases, its reproductive rates decline. In fact, female fawns often stop breeding when deer populations are high."

Deer health will be gauged as good when 30 percent or more of fawns are bred; when 2-year-old females have 1.5 fawns or more; and when females 3 years or older have 1.7 fawns or more.

Habitat monitoring will examine forest sustainability. Forest habitat health would be gauged as good when at least 70 percent of sampled plots had adequate regeneration to replace the current forest canopy.